There are two main things retailers need to focus on when prepping their store Web site for the Holidays, according to Michael Murphy, vice-president and country manager of software and security company Citrix Canada.
“First, make sure the online experience is secure for consumers and retailers,” he said. “Second, you don’t want to miss out on the e-commerce action so focus on performance and availability.”
Network administrators need to consider the following issue:
- High-speed connections
- Redundancy and system failover
- Adequate bandwidth
Unfortunately, many retail Web sites are ill-prepared to handle a sudden spike in transactions.
For example, Murphy cited a business that was featured in the CBC reality TV show Dragon’s Den which features aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists in the hopes of winning financing.
“They made a successful pitch and almost immediately attracted customers to their site, unfortunately, their site was not ready to handle the sudden surge in traffic,” he said. “The site crashed not long after the show was aired.”
What the business owners should have down was to conduct performance and load tests to determine if their network is up to the projected traffic. Availability and resiliency need to be well thought out in advance, according to Murphy.
The speed and responsiveness of the site during different load times should be monitored and the site should be performing well across all platforms and devices.
Retailers should also determine how well their service provider can respond to the store’s needs. It’s also a good idea to inquire about the availability of additional resources such as solid-state drive hosting and content delivery networks which can help cut down the risk of site slowdown or crashes.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
- Webmasters and site designers should avoid drastic changes to site navigation and layout at this time. Introducing new functionalities and code changes at this critical time is risky as it can cause confusion, disrupt customer site activity and may result in abandonment.
- Make sure the site is up to speed. Avoid large files, videos and slow loading content slows down the site. Remember the tolerance of shoppers for slow sites is very short especially during this busy time of the year. Every second count.
- Let shoppers know your site is secure. For example, install SSL/TLS certificates on your site. Or opt for an EV SSL certificate that comes with trust indicators of a green padlock and your company’s name in the browser address bar.
- Enable access with different devices. Make sure your site looks good and provides excellent navigation whether the shopper is using a personal computer, tablet or smartphone to ensure a smooth online or mobile shopping experience.
- Highlight top-rate items. Provide gift ideas. Showcase sale prices. And alert shoppers of shipping deadlines.
- Boost customer service by staffing up and making sure you have enough customer service personnel for all channels such as phone, email, chat and social media.
- Make it easy for customers to transact exchanges and returns.
- Streamline your customer checkout process. When confronted with complicated and lengthy checkout processes, many customers tend to abandon their purchase out of frustration.
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